His Dark Materials (TV series)

His Dark Materials is a fantasy drama television series based on the novel series of the same name by Philip Pullman. It is produced by Bad Wolf and New Line Productions, for BBC One and HBO, with the latter handling international distribution.[1]

His Dark Materials
His Dark Materials TV Title Card.png
Genre
Based onHis Dark Materials
by Philip Pullman
Written byJack Thorne
Starring
ComposerLorne Balfe
Country of origin
  • United Kingdom
  • United States
Original languageEnglish
No. of series2
No. of episodes15 (list of episodes)
Production
Executive producers
ProducerLaurie Borg
CinematographyJustin Brown
Editors
  • Niven Howie
  • Nick Arthurs
  • Dan Roberts
  • Chris Gill
  • David Fisher
Production companies
Distributor
Release
Original network
  • BBC One (United Kingdom)
  • HBO (United States)
Picture format16:9 UHD
Original release3 November 2019 (2019-11-03) –
present (present)
External links
Website
Production website

The eight-episode first series premiered on 3 November 2019 on BBC One in the United Kingdom, and on 4 November on HBO in the United States and other markets. The seven-episode second series premiered on 8 November 2020 in the United Kingdom, and on 16 November 2020 in the United States. In December 2020, His Dark Materials was renewed for a third and final series of eight episodes based on The Amber Spyglass.[2]

PremiseEdit

His Dark Materials is set in a multi-world reality, with the action moving from one world to another. The series is based on Philip Pullman's trilogy of the same name. It begins in an alternative world where all humans' souls manifest as animal companions called daemons. The series follows the life of a young girl named Lyra who is an orphan living with the scholars at Jordan College, Oxford, in a world governed by the Magisterium, a religious and political body. Lyra discovers a dangerous secret that involves Lord Asriel and Marisa Coulter, and is the subject of a witches prophecy that she will change the world. In her search for a missing friend, Lyra also uncovers a series of kidnappings and its link to a mysterious substance called Dust, which leads her on a journey of epic proportions and ultimately to other worlds. The witches' prophecy also links Lyra's destiny to Will, a teenager from our world, who is himself being pursued by mysterious figures connected to his vanished father.

CastEdit

MainEdit

FeaturedEdit

The following actors are credited in the opening titles, but only appear in up to two episodes.

  • Georgina Campbell as Adele Starminster, a reporter. (series 1)
  • Lia Williams as Dr Cooper, a Magisterium scientist operating in Bolvangar.[6] (series 1)
  • Terence Stamp as Giacomo Paradisi, the bearer of the subtle knife residing in Cittàgazze. (series 2)

Voice castEdit

Additionally, lead puppeteer Brian Fisher provides the uncredited vocalisations for Mrs Coulter's golden monkey daemon.[11]

RecurringEdit

  • Simon Manyonda as Benjamin de Ruyter (series 1)
  • Geoff Bell as Jack Verhoeven (series 1)
  • Tyler Howitt as Billy Costa, a Gyptian boy captured by the Gobblers and Ma Costa's younger son. (series 1)
  • Mat Fraser as Raymond van Gerrit (series 1)
  • Ian Peck as Cardinal Sturrock, the head of the Magisterium. (series 1–2)
  • David Langham as Father Garret[3]
  • Robert Emms as Thomas,[13] an agent working for Boreal who spies on Will's family. (series 1)
  • Morfydd Clark as Sister Clara[6][14] (series 1)
  • Frank Bourke as Fra Pavel Rasek,[15] a representative and alethiometrist of the Consistorial Court of Discipline. (series 1–2)
  • Jamie Wilkes as Inspector Walters, "the pale-faced man" and an associate of Boreal and Thomas. (series 1–2)
  • Omid Djalili as Dr Martin Lanselius,[12][16] the diplomatic consul of the witch clans in the North. (series 1–2)
  • Ray Fearon as Mr Hanway,[6][3] Will's school boxing coach. (series 1–2)
  • Remmie Milner as Lena Feldt, a witch who accompanies Serafina in finding Lyra. (series 2)
  • Bella Ramsey as Angelica, a girl living in Cittàgazze. (series 2)
  • Ella Schrey-Yeats as Paola, a girl living in Cittàgazze who is the sister of Angelica. She is a female version of Paolo from the book. (series 2)[17]
  • Sasha Frost as Reina Miti, a witch who accompanies Serafina in finding Lyra. (series 2)[18]
  • Lewis MacDougall as Tullio, a boy living in Cittàgazze who stole the Subtle Knife and is the brother of Angelica and Paola. (series 2)[17]

GuestEdit

EpisodesEdit

SeriesEpisodesOriginally aired (UK)Ave. UK viewers
(millions)
Ave. US viewers
(millions)
First airedLast aired
183 November 2019 (2019-11-03)22 December 2019 (2019-12-22)7.0630.423
278 November 2020 (2020-11-08)20 December 2020 (2020-12-20)4.9230.246

Series 1 (2019)Edit

No.
overall
No. in
series
TitleDirected byWritten byOriginal air date Viewers
(millions)
11"Lyra's Jordan"Tom HooperJack Thorne3 November 2019 (2019-11-03) (UK)9.723 (UK)[19]
4 November 2019 (2019-11-04) (US)0.424 (US)[20]
Young Lyra Belacqua is raised as a ward of Jordan College in Oxford. Her closest friends are her daemon Pantalaimon ("Pan") and a servant boy named Roger Parslow. Lyra admires her uncle, Lord Asriel, a polar explorer whose research into Dust and parallel worlds is regarded as heretical by the ruling Magisterium. Lyra saves Asriel from being poisoned by the Master of Jordan College, who foresees Lyra's future importance through an alethiometer, an instrument belonging to Lord Asriel and one of only six ever made. After Asriel leaves on another polar expedition, Marisa Coulter, also an explorer, arrives. She offers to mentor Lyra and promises to search for Roger, who has been kidnapped by the mysterious "Gobblers": the second recent such disappearance, after the Gyptian boy Billy Costa. The Master gives Lyra the alethiometer, saying that it tells the truth and is for her protection. She must figure out how to use it and tell no one she has it, including Mrs Coulter. Lyra accompanies Mrs Coulter to London hoping to search for Roger. Meanwhile, the Gyptians pursue the Gobblers to London.
22"The Idea of North"Tom Hooper[a]Jack Thorne10 November 2019 (2019-11-10) (UK)7.708 (UK)[19]
11 November 2019 (2019-11-11) (US)0.369 (US)[21]
Lyra settles into Mrs Coulter's luxurious London apartment, assured that her benefactress is actively searching for Roger. The Gyptians' attempt to rescue the missing children fails. At Oxford, the Master of Jordan College denies Lord Boreal, a Consistorial Court priest, access to what is believed to be Stanislaus Grumman's decapitated head, recently found in the north by Asriel. Boreal travels through a portal to an alternate Oxford. He hires Thomas, a mercenary, to find Grumman. Lyra grows wary of Mrs Coulter's monkey daemon and her close Magisterium ties. When Lyra is caught eavesdropping on Mrs Coulter and Father MacPhail, Mrs Coulter's daemon attacks Pan. Mrs Coulter inadvertently reveals that Lord Asriel is Lyra's father. Mrs Coulter secretly visits Roger, Billy, and the other kidnapped children, saying they are going on an adventure to "the North". Lyra discovers that Mrs Coulter is involved with the General Oblation Board of London (GOB). During a party at Mrs Coulter's apartment, journalist Adele Starminster confirms to Lyra that the Oblation Board is known as the Gobblers, prompting Lyra and Pan to flee with the alethiometer. Boreal later crushes Adele's daemon, killing her. Lyra and Pan are captured by a Gobbler.
33"The Spies"Dawn Shadforth[a]Jack Thorne17 November 2019 (2019-11-17) (UK)7.216 (UK)[19]
18 November 2019 (2019-11-18) (US)0.348 (US)[22]
Tony Costa and Benjamin rescue Lyra from the Gobblers and bring her to the Gyptians' camp. Lyra accepts their protection, and agrees to help find Roger and the other missing children. Mrs Coulter learns that Lyra has an alethiometer and sends two robotic "spy-flies" to track her. Boreal crosses back to the alternate world, where Thomas informs him that Grumman is an explorer named John Parry who has a wife and son. Boreal hires another man to find them. Ma Costa reveals that Mrs Coulter is Lyra's mother. Asriel killed Mrs Coulter's husband when he tried to take revenge for their affair. Lyra was kept hidden at Jordan College. Lyra helps the Gyptian king, John Faa, to persuade the others to travel North and find the captive children. Tony and Benjamin raid Mrs Coulter's apartment, finding a list of missing children, including Billy Costa. The boys are discovered; Tony narrowly escapes but Benjamin is killed. Lyra can intuitively read the alethiometer, which says Benjamin is dead. She is attacked by the spy-flies. Farder Coram captures one spy-fly, but the other returns to Mrs Coulter, divulging Lyra's location.
44"Armour"Otto BathurstJack Thorne24 November 2019 (2019-11-24) (UK)6.876 (UK)[19]
25 November 2019 (2019-11-25) (US)0.396 (US)[23]
Texan aeronaut Lee Scoresby and his daemon Hester travel to Trollesund in the Far North seeking Iorek Byrnison, a disgraced armoured bear. Trollesund's Magisterium citizens stole his armour several years earlier, forcing him to work as an indentured labourer. Lyra and the Gyptians sail to Trollesund to search for the kidnapped children. Farder Coram contacts his former lover, a witch queen named Serafina Pekkala; her daemon, Kaisa, promises that Serafina will help the Gyptians. Though the Gyptian elders believe Iorek is untrustworthy, Lyra and Scoresby enlist Iorek's help in finding the children. With Lyra's assistance, Iorek recovers his armour locked inside a church. Iorek and Scoresby join Lyra and the Gyptians as they travel north. Meanwhile, a Magisterium priest attempts to replace Mrs Coulter as head of the Gobblers with Father MacPhail. She offers to give Lord Asriel to the Magisterium. He is being held prisoner by Iofur Raknison, the king of the armoured bears. In exchange, she will continue her experiments and wants the alethiometer to reveal "Who is Lyra Belacqua?". Travelling north, she meets with Iofur, offering him a baptism and induction into the Magisterium in exchange for working with her.
55"The Lost Boy"Otto Bathurst[a]Jack Thorne1 December 2019 (2019-12-01) (UK)6.688 (UK)[19]
2 December 2019 (2019-12-02) (US)0.467 (US)[24]
Lyra and the Gyptians travel farther north with Scoresby and Iorek. The alethiometer signals Lyra to go to a nearby fishing village; Faa reluctantly allows her to go after Iorek agrees to take her. In an alternate world, Will Parry looks after his mentally ill mother, Elaine, while attending high school. They are stalked by Thomas and Boreal, who are seeking information about Will's father, John Parry. Elaine gives Will his father's letters, explaining his disappearance. Boreal determines that Parry has been travelling between worlds ever since his disappearance thirteen years earlier; evidence could be found in Will's home. Farder Coram meets with Serafina Pekkala to discuss the other worlds and a coming war. Lyra and Iorek arrive at the fishing village and find Billy Costa, who has been surgically separated from his daemon. They return Billy to his family, but he dies soon after. A Samoyed raiding party capture Lyra and bring her to Bolvangar, the Gobblers' base.
66"The Daemon-Cages"Euros Lyn[a]Jack Thorne8 December 2019 (2019-12-08) (UK)6.357 (UK)[19]
9 December 2019 (2019-12-09) (US)0.393 (US)[25]
Lyra, posing as "Lizzie", finds Roger among the captive children at Bolvangar. She learns that the Gobblers are using an experimental procedure called intercision to surgically sever the children from their daemons. Mrs Coulter visits Bolvangar and discovers Lyra, saving her from undergoing an intercision. Mrs Coulter attempts to persuade Lyra to join her, claiming Dust is the source of sin that affects all adults. She attempts to get Lyra's alethiometer, but Lyra attacks her with the captured spy-fly. Lyra escapes and destroys the intercision machine and the base's generator. The children are rescued by the Gyptians, Iorek, Scoresby, and Serafina Pekkala, who kill the scientists and mercenaries, although Mrs Coulter escapes. The Gyptians return south with the rescued children, while Lyra and Roger travel north with Scoresby and Iorek in the hot-air balloon to reach Lord Asriel on Svalbard. However, flying bat-like monsters called cliff-ghasts attack them, and Lyra falls from the airship. Meanwhile, Will Parry reads his father's letters as Thomas and another mercenary spy on him.
77"The Fight to the Death"Jamie Childs[a]Jack Thorne15 December 2019 (2019-12-15) (UK)6.073 (UK)[19]
16 December 2019 (2019-12-16) (US)0.485 (US)[26]
Lyra survives the fall, but is captured by an armoured bear and taken to Iofur Raknison's palace on Svalbard. She convinces Iofur that she is Iorek's artificial daemon, created by scientists at Bolvangar, and manipulates Iofur into fighting Iorek, with her as the prize. Iorek defeats and kills Iofur, reclaiming his rightful place as bear king. He reunites Lyra with Roger, and they travel to Asriel's laboratory. Meanwhile, Mrs Coulter, Father MacPhail, and the Magisterium's soldiers head for Svalbard to find and kill Asriel. Elsewhere, Scoresby and Hester have crash-landed. Serafina arrives and tells them Lyra needs help. Lyra, Roger and Iorek reach Asriel's laboratory in the Svalbard mountains. Lyra and Asriel are reunited, though her arrival initially distresses Asriel. Meanwhile, Boreal crosses back to the alternate world and visits Elaine Parry, who resists sharing information about her husband. Will and Elaine return home after Boreal's mercenary has broken into the house. Will takes his mother to a neighbour's house and returns to retrieve his father's letters. When Thomas and the Pale-Face Man return, Will kills Thomas in self-defence, then flees.
88"Betrayal"Jamie Childs[a]Jack Thorne22 December 2019 (2019-12-22) (UK)5.865 (UK)[19]
23 December 2019 (2019-12-23) (US)0.502 (US)[27]
At Svalbard, Lord Asriel informs Lyra about his Dust research and parallel worlds, explaining that the Magisterium fears Dust as the source of human sin. In the other world, Boreal has the Pale-Faced Man continue searching for Will, and reports him as missing to the police. Later, Asriel takes Roger to a point near the Aurora Borealis, intending to sever his daemon to create a bridge into another world. Learning Roger is in danger, Lyra, with King Iorek and the armoured bears, pursues him. Mrs Coulter and the Magisterium military arrive in airships and attack Iorek and his bears. Lyra is unable to save Roger, who is severed from his daemon and killed. His death causes an explosion and creates a bridge to another world. Mrs Coulter arrives and Asriel fails to persuade her to accompany him and challenge the Authority. Pan tells Lyra he does not believe that Dust is bad as was claimed. Lyra crosses the bridge. Meanwhile, a fugitive Will discovers a portal into another world.

Series 2 (2020)Edit

No.
overall
No. in
series
TitleDirected byWritten byOriginal air date Viewers
(millions)
91"The City of Magpies"Jamie ChildsJack Thorne8 November 2020 (2020-11-08) (UK)5.660 (UK)[19]
16 November 2020 (2020-11-16) (US)0.227 (US)[28]
After stepping through the portal, Lyra finds the 'city in the sky' called Cittàgazze. She meets Will Parry, who arrived several days earlier. Will, having never seen a daemon, is startled by the talking Pan. He and Lyra learn both their worlds have an Oxford and other similarities. Adults have deserted the city, while some children who were left behind warn of ghostly spectres that absorb the souls of people when they reach adulthood. The witches prepare for war and task Lee Scoresby with finding Stanislaus Grumman, an explorer who reportedly died in the North. Aboard a submarine, Mrs Coulter interrogates and tortures a captured witch who partially reveals a prophecy surrounding a child. Mrs Coulter claims to know that witches can travel between the different worlds. Before the witch reveals the name tied to the prophecy, witch queen Ruta Skadi arrives and kills her and some submarine crew, then wounds Cardinal Sturrock before escaping. Later, Will has a vision of a knife and heads to the Tower of Angels at the city centre.
102"The Cave"Jamie ChildsJack Thorne and Francesca Gardiner15 November 2020 (2020-11-15) (UK)5.027 (UK)[19]
23 November 2020 (2020-11-23) (US)0.229 (US)[29]
In Will's world, he visits his mother while Lyra heads to Oxford where she encounters Charles Latrom (Lord Boreal). The alethiometer guides Lyra to Mary Malone, an Oxford physicist researching Dark Matter (Dust). Lyra shows Mary the alethiometer, and Mary demonstrates her research that similarly allows computer communication with Dust. Cardinal Sturrock dies, leaving Father MacPhail a possible successor. Dr Lanselius, the witches' peace envoy, testifies that Ruta Skati's attack was a lone act. He is then falsely convicted of spying, heresy, and treason. Will meets his paternal grandparents who want his father's letters. Will leaves as they are calling to report him to police. Mary connects Lyra to her computer. The particles form screen images that Lyra interprets. Lyra tells Will the alethiometer told her to help him. Mrs Coulter urges McPhail to take a bold action to increase his chances of being elected Cardinal. MacPhail then bombs the witches' territories. Thorold, Asriel's jailed assistant, tells Mrs Coulter that Asriel had intended to sacrifice Lyra to open up the other world, but instead used Roger. When MacPhail is chosen Cardinal, Mrs Coulter threatens blackmail to ensure his continued cooperation.
113"Theft"Leanne WelhamJack Thorne and Sarah Quintrell22 November 2020 (2020-11-22) (UK)4.721 (UK)[19]
30 November 2020 (2020-11-30) (US)0.234 (US)[30]
The witches vow retribution for their destroyed lands. A mysterious figure whispers for Lee Scoresby to "return." Boreal's henchman confronts Lyra in Mary Malone's office but she flees with Mary's help. Outside, Charles Latrom (Boreal) offers Lyra a lift. After exiting his car, she discovers the alethiometer missing from her backpack. Scoresby finds his balloon has inexplicably flown to Yenisei. Dr Haley, an astronomy scholar there, confirms Grumman is alive and declares him a heretic. Haley, a Magisterium agent, attempts to shoot Scoresby, who is arrested after killing Haley in self-defence. In Cittàgazze, Will sees someone inside the tower. Mrs Coulter arrives in Yenisei and discovers Scoresby jailed there. He conceals Lyra's whereabouts, but Mrs Coulter later frees him, knowing he will protect Lyra. Mary attempts to communicate with Dust. Serefina Pekkala's daemon, Kaisa, and Iorek discuss Lyra and the prophecy. Lord Boreal will return the alethiometer if Will and Lyra bring him a knife kept in the Tower of the Angels in Cittàgazze.
124"Tower of the Angels"Leanne WelhamJack Thorne and Namsi Khan29 November 2020 (2020-11-29) (UK)4.757 (UK)[19]
7 December 2020 (2020-12-07) (US)0.264 (US)[31]
A narrator recounts the Subtle Knife's origins and why spectres were unleashed. Scoresby finds Will's father, John Parry, now a shaman known as Jopari, who confirms he is Grumman. Jopari claims he "summoned" Scoresby and needs his help to find the Subtle Knife, named Æsahættr, and bring it to Asriel. Mary rejects Boreal's offer to fund her and Oliver's research. Lyra and Will ascend the Tower of the Angels in Cittàgazze and encounter Giacomo Paradisi, the elderly knife bearer. A youth named Tullio has just attacked him and stolen the knife. Will recovers the knife, but his right-hand little finger and ring finger are partially severed during the struggle; Paradisi proclaims Will is now the knife bearer and shows how to cut portals between worlds. After Lyra and Will depart with the knife, Paradisi, no longer protected, fatally poisons himself to thwart the spectres. Tullio's soul is consumed by spectres. Scoresby agrees to help Jopari if Lyra is put under the Subtle Knife's protection. Mary communicates with Dust, which are angels. Lord Boreal leads Mrs Coulter through Cittàgazze to the alternate Oxford to find Lyra. Serafina Pekkala and Ruta Skadi attack the Magisterium airships guarding the portal, then travel through to search for Lyra.
135"The Scholar"Leanne WelhamFrancesca Gardiner6 December 2020 (2020-12-06) (UK)4.817 (UK)[19]
14 December 2020 (2020-12-14) (US)0.216 (US)[32]
Cardinal MacPhail claims the witches' deadly airship attack is a sign that the Authority is punishing the Magisterium for lacking devotion. McPhail then falsely accuses Father Graves, his rival for the cardinalate, of losing faith, and has him arrested. He instructs his alethiometrist, Fra Pavel, to learn Mrs Coulter's location and what she seeks. Mrs Coulter and Boreal arrive at Boreal's other Oxford house to await Lyra and Will's arrival. Mrs Coulter visits Mary Malone, introducing herself as Lyra's mother. Later, the Cave instructs Mary to play the serpent, journey to another world, and save the girl and boy, before shutting itself down. Paola and Angelica blame Lyra and Will for the spectres consuming their brother Tullio's soul. Lyra arrives at Boreal's, distracting him, while Will cuts a window into his house to retrieve the alethiometer. Lyra encounters Mrs Coulter there, and Pan viciously attacks Coulter’s daemon. Will, struggling with Boreal, grabs the alethiometer, then cuts a window back to Cittàgazze, escaping with Lyra. Boreal warns Mrs Coulter about the spectres when she wants to pursue Lyra. Mary steps through the window to Cittàgazze.
146"Malice"Jamie ChildsJack Thorne and Lydia Adetunji13 December 2020 (2020-12-13) (UK)4.782 (UK)[19]
21 December 2020 (2020-12-21) (US)0.202 (US)[33]
The witches see angels flying overhead. Ruta Skadi believes they are joining Asriel in a coming war. She follows, wanting to find Asriel to help him destroy the Magisterium. Fra Pavel informs Cardinal MacPhail that the alethiometer shows Mrs Coulter is searching for Lyra, who features in a prophecy. Paola, Angelica, and other children, wanting to avenge Tullio, attack Will and Lyra. Serafina arrives and saves them. The witches cast a healing spell on Will's wounded hand, but need more powerful medicinal plants growing in their lands. Spectres nearly devour one witch, but Will repels them with the Subtle Knife. Mary arrives in Cittàgazze, unknowingly protected by angels. She encounters Paola and Angelica and promises to help find their adult counterparts. Boreal and Mrs Coulter also enter Cittàgazze, searching for Lyra, Will, and the Subtle Knife. They encounter spectres which Mrs Coulter can control by suppressing her humanity. She fatally poisons Boreal, as he hinders her ambitions. Lee and Parry, flying to Cittàgazze, are pursued by Magisterium airships. Parry uses his shaman powers to summon storms and a flock of birds that take down two airships. A third ship shoots Lee's balloon, forcing him to land.
157"Æsahættr"Jamie ChildsJack Thorne20 December 2020 (2020-12-20) (UK)4.696 (UK)[34]
28 December 2020 (2020-12-28) (US)0.347 (US)[35]
As Lyra, Will, and the witches continue travelling, Serafina sends two witches ahead as scouts. Elsewhere, Ruta Skadi overhears creatures called cliff-ghasts discussing a coming war that Asriel cannot win without Æsahættr. In Cittàgazze, Mrs Coulter captures and then tortures the witch Lena Feldt with a spectre to reveal Lyra's location and the prophecy that states Lyra will be the second Eve who brings a second Fall of Man. After finding the adults' campsite, Angelica and Paola leave Mary, who continues searching. Pursued by Magisterium soldiers, Lee urges Parry to flee while he fights them off. Lee is mortally wounded and summons Serafina with a cloud pine branch, but dies before she arrives. Parry summons his son, Will, through a vision. Reunited, Parry urges Will to fulfil his destiny as the knife bearer before they can return home. Parry is fatally shot, and, before dying, tells Will the angels will guide him to Asriel. In a desolate world, the angels pledge Lord Asriel their support in the coming war against the Authority. Will returns to find Lyra missing after Mrs Coulter has abducted her. On a ship, Coulter vows to protect Lyra, who appears drugged and is confined inside a trunk. In a post-credits scene, Roger and Lyra call to one another in an unknown location.

ProductionEdit

DevelopmentEdit

The three His Dark Materials novels, written by Philip Pullman from 1995 to 2000, achieved critical and commercial success and were adapted into a 2007 feature film, The Golden Compass. The film was criticised by fans of the trilogy for the dilution of elements of the story that were critical of religion, as well as from some religious organisations for the source material's perceived anti-religious themes. Despite earning $372 million worldwide, the film underperformed at the box office, making any sequels unlikely.[36]

After several years, the rights reverted to Pullman. In November 2015, BBC One announced that it had commissioned a television adaptation of the trilogy, to be produced by Bad Wolf and New Line Cinema.[37] The eight-part[38] adaptation had a planned premiere date in 2017. In April 2017 writer Jack Thorne told Radio Times that the series was still in pre-production. He said, "It's at an exciting point where we're just throwing things at the page and trying to work out what works and what doesn't", and that he wanted to ensure that they were being loyal to the books.[39] Director Otto Bathurst explained that some elements of the book and film had been changed to give the series a more modern feel, compared to the original's Victoriana fantasy.[40]

On 12 September 2018, HBO was announced as the co-producer and international distributor of the series.[41] On 10 October 2018, Miranda reported that he had wrapped up filming for his role.[42] On 14 December 2018, it was announced that filming for the first series was complete.[43]

Before the series premiered, it was renewed for a second series of eight episodes, which is primarily adapting the second book in the trilogy, The Subtle Knife.[44] Filming of the second series began before the premiere of the first, which was considered "a necessary move considering the age of the show's young star".[45] While filming for series 2 was mostly completed before the COVID-19 pandemic, a standalone episode focusing on Lord Asriel was left unfinished. As a consequence the series ultimately only consisted of seven episodes.[46] Although McAvoy completed a small amount of filming before production was shut down,[47] his appearance in the series' final episode was filmed during the pandemic, repurposed from material written for the abandoned episode.[48]

By November 2020, although a recommission had not yet been confirmed, work had begun on six of eight scripts for a third series adapting The Amber Spyglass. With production set to begin in early 2021,[47] the adaptation was renewed in December 2020 for a final series of eight episodes.[2][49] Filming for the third series began on 24 May 2021.[50]

CastingEdit

 
Promotional image showing lead characters and locations

On 8 March 2018, it was announced that Dafne Keen had signed on to star in the series to play Lyra with director Tom Hooper signed on to direct. Lin-Manuel Miranda would star as Lee Scoresby.[51] On 8 June 2018, it was reported that James McAvoy, Clarke Peters, and Ruth Wilson had joined the cast.[52][53]

On 27 July 2018, the BBC and Bad Wolf revealed the cast and crew for the series.[54]

On 1 July 2020, it was revealed that Bella Ramsey had been cast in the role of Angelica. Oliver Monaghan and I-Kay Agu were also announced as playing angels Baruch and Balthamos respectively,[55] although neither ultimately appeared in the second series.[citation needed]

Additional casting for the third series was announced on 22 June 2021, including Adewale Akinnuoye-Agbaje as Commander Ogunwe, Jamie Ward as Father Gomez and Amber Fitzgerald-Woolfe as Ama. The roles of Balthamos and Baruch were re-cast to Kobna Holdbrook-Smith and Simon Harrison, with Chipo Chung assuming the role of the angel Xaphania; the latter role was voiced by Sophie Okonedo in series 2.[50]

MusicEdit

On 14 August 2019, it was announced that Lorne Balfe was hired to score the series.[56] Speaking about the job, Balfe stated that he "wanted to write a musical letter to the creators of the show," also mentioning that the series was a "mammoth task" and one of his biggest projects yet.[57] Scoring primarily took place in St David's Hall in Cardiff, Wales with the BBC National Orchestra of Wales. While the ethnic Bulgarian choir was recorded in Bulgaria with additional remote sessions taking place at the Synchron Scoring Stage in Vienna, Austria with the Synchron Stage Orchestra.[57] Also featured on the score are cellist Tina Guo, Red Hot Chili Peppers drummer Chad Smith, classical French horn player Sarah Willis, violinist Lindsey Stirling and recordist Richard Harvey.[58] Two soundtrack albums were released; a musical anthology with thematic pieces and an album containing all the cues used in the series. Silva Screen Records released the albums digitally on 3 November 2019 and 20 December 2019 respectively.[59][60]

Lorne Balfe's His Dark Materials score was nominated for two awards: for Best Original Score for a Television Series at the 2020 International Film Music Critics Association (IFMCA) awards and for Music - Original Title at the 2020 Royal Television Society, UK awards.[61]

ReleaseEdit

On 24 July 2019, it was announced that the series would premiere in the fourth quarter of 2019 in the United Kingdom and the United States.[62][63][64] On 12 September 2019, sources revealed that the series was set to premiere on 3 November 2019 on BBC One and the following night on HBO.[65]

In New Zealand, the series is broadcast by Sky TV and is available on streaming service Neon. The series began on 5 November 2019.[66][67] In Australia, the series is distributed by the cable and satellite television company Foxtel through their HBO output deal.[68]

The second series premiered on 8 November 2020 in the United Kingdom, and on 16 November 2020 in the United States.[69][70][71]

ReceptionEdit

Critical responseEdit

Series 1Edit

Series one received positive reviews from critics. On Rotten Tomatoes, the first series has an approval rating of 80% based on reviews from 96 critics, with an average rating of 6.99/10. The website's critical consensus reads: "The daemon is in the details and while His Dark Materials' visual splendor and exceptional performances deftly capture the essence of Philip Pullman's seminal novels, it could use a little more magic."[72] On Metacritic, the series has a score of 69 out of 100 based on reviews from 22 critics, indicating "generally favorable reviews".[73]

Dan Fienberg of The Hollywood Reporter wrote that "...this effort nails much of what makes the books pop, and both the special effects and a star-studded cast led by Dafne Keen and Ruth Wilson are in fine form." However he followed that by saying "What never fully worked for me in the four episodes [...] sent to critics is the necessary feeling of narrative and thematic momentum. It's vastly better than the movie, but neither fun nor smart enough to quite succeed."[74] Caroline Framke of Variety wrote: "Despite the rich complexities of the novel's world of daemons, power-hungry players and warring faiths, HBO's His Dark Materials feels like it could have been plucked from most any other fantasy epic out there."[75] Beth Elderkin of Gizmodo was critical of the show's inability to capture the connection between humans and daemons.[76]

Ben Lawrence of The Telegraph gave the first episode 4 out of 5 stars, calling it "a fine piece of drama, capturing the strangeness and childlike wonder of the books, but also their rigour and bite. This is intelligent populism writ large."[77] Huw Fullerton of the Radio Times gave the first episode a positive review: "While there is a slight element of table-setting in the series' first hour the appeal of the actors and setting are beguiling enough to pull you through all the exposition and explanation." Fullerton praised Wilson for her performance, saying she "nearly walks away with the whole series".[78] David Levesley of British GQ wrote that His Dark Materials as a whole illustrates the fundamental problem with remaking adaptations, writing "the execution doesn't feel far enough removed from the previous version to actually make for a significantly better product."[79]

Series 2Edit

Series two received generally positive reviews from critics. On Rotten Tomatoes, the second series has an approval rating of 81% based on reviews from 26 critics, with an average rating of 6.87/10. The website's critical consensus reads: "His Dark Materials' chilly emotional core and imposing complexity is unlikely to win over the unconverted, but its sophomore season rewards the faithful with impeccable production values and cerebral thrills."[80] On Metacritic, series 2 has a score of 71 out of 100 based on reviews from 4 critics, indicating "generally favorable reviews".[81]

Stuart Jeffries of The Guardian praised the series and in particular the villainous Mrs Coulter, calling Pullman's creation a compelling monster that writer Jack Thorne clearly "revels in punching up Coulter as a combination of Iago and Lady Macbeth with a hint, at her most pantomimic, of Cruella de Vil" and "you never know what she might do next". Jeffries was critical of the musical score, comparing it to the "boy who cried wolf", leaving audiences in doubt if the next dramatic moment was quite as significant as the music was suggesting, and undermining the two good lead actors who convey the necessary dramatic tension in their performances.[82] Ed Cumming of The Independent wrote: "His Dark Materials looks great, it's robustly made, and there are great actors everywhere, occupying well-built universes. But it doesn't inspire as much wonder as it ought to."[83] Ed Power of The Irish Times was critical of the series. Despite the strong cast, he called it "slow-moving and inhospitable towards newcomers" and plodding in its execution. Power blames Pullman's source material: "frankly the whole thing is a bit of a drag. It's never fun being preached to, not even by an atheist." He concludes "His Dark Materials has a lot going for it. But it desperately lacks a sense of fun and, crucial for fantasy, the promise of escapism."[84]

AccoladesEdit

Year Award Category Nominee(s) Result Ref.
2020 Annie Awards Outstanding Achievement for Character Animation in an Animated Television/Broadcast Production Aulo Licinio Won [85]
British Academy Television Awards Best Costume Design Caroline McCall Nominated [86]
Best Photography & Lighting: Fiction Suzie Lavelle Nominated [86]
Best Sound: Fiction Dillon Bennett, Jon Thomas, Gareth Bull and James Ridgeway Nominated [86]
Best Special, Visual & Graphic Effects Framestore, Painting Practice, Real SFX and Russel Dodgson Won [86]
Titles & Graphic Identity Elastic, Painting Practice Won [86]
Satellite Awards Best Television Series – Genre His Dark Materials Nominated [87]
Visual Effects Society Awards Outstanding Visual Effects in a Photoreal Episode Russell Dodgson, James Whitlam, Shawn Hillier and Robert Harrington Nominated [88]
2021 Satellite Awards Best Television Series – Genre His Dark Materials Nominated [89]
Saturn Awards Best Television Presentation (under 10 Episodes) His Dark Materials Pending [90]

NotesEdit

  1. ^ a b c d e f Additional direction by William McGregor

ReferencesEdit

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External linksEdit